Why Positive Worry Imagery Works

October 6, 2010  |  imagery, worry

After witnessing the effectiveness of Positive Worry Imagery for many years, I believe there are some sound psychological reasons that explain why it works so well.

First, it begins with acknowledging the worry. It clarifies the issue and takes it out of the realm of vagueness, a quality that tends to amplify and prolong worry. It also directly deals with the phenomenon that results from trying NOT to think of the worry. Trying not to think about something always brings that thing to mind (try not to think about a rabbit for a minute), so the strategy is doomed to failure. Positive Worry takes the opposite approach: it begins with focusing on and symbolizing the worry.

Next, Positive Worry relieves you of trying to block the thoughts from coming and places the focus instead on your response to the thoughts. If you are a habitual worrier, the worrisome thoughts are just going to come on their own, and trying to block them out of your awareness is a waste of energy. Shifting the way you respond to them, however, is akin to the way a good martial artist sidesteps an attack and uses his opponent’s energy to get the opponent in a position where he has little or no power. It is like a form of mental Ju Jitsu.

Third, Positive Worry imagery lets you take action, even if it’s a mental action. Your symbol of negation, the red circle with the slash through it (or whatever works for you) lets you mark the worry as something into which you choose not to put energy or attention. This ritual satisfies the mind’s desire to do something about an untenable situation. You might even imagine a satisfying sound that goes with the “stamping out” part of this process to make it more powerful.

Fourth, Positive Worry imagery requires that you imagine and symbolize the outcomes that you desire, giving you a clear focus of intention, choice, or prayer. Oddly, it gives you something to do about something that you have already decided you cannot do anything about!

Fifth, the shift of your attention from a flow of negatively charged images and thoughts to a mental slide show of positive outcomes is likely to improve your mood, even though you are dealing with the same issues.

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